BMX rider Sakakibara slowly recovers, Olympic hopes over

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SYDNEY (AP) – Australian BMX runner Kai Sakakibara, who grew up in Japan, has moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, but his hopes of qualifying for the Olympics are over if his family has learned to ” Expect permanent disability after suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Sakakibara, 23, had to undergo surgery to relieve pressure on his brain after an accident in February during a World Cup in Bathurst west of Sydney that left him unconscious and in intensive care.

Sakakibara, ranked among the top 10 BMX riders in the world in recent years, spent almost eight weeks in a hospital in Canberra. But with all of the surgeries now complete, he has moved to the brain injury rehabilitation unit in west Sydney, where he is expected to stay for “several months”.

An update from the Sakakibara family on Friday said that in the past 10 days, he had gone from “yes” or “no” to a piece of talking paper when asked simple questions.

But doctors told the family that he would be permanently disabled, with trauma to the left side of his brain currently affecting his ability to speak and move the right side of his body.

“Kai continues to” come out “of the state of unconsciousness, and we are delighted to start communicating with him,” said the family statement. “However, over time, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is a really serious injury.”

They said Sakakibara had already made “solid improvements” in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, while the facility had gone to great lengths to protect patients from the coronavirus.

“Kai has his phone and browses social media every day, he” likes “the messages and tries to send text messages to friends, but they are still scrambled,” the family said. “” So if you receive an SMS from Kai, don’t worry, his account hasn’t been hacked, he’s just trying to contact people. Sometimes he gets angry and sometimes he just puts that patient smile on Kai and we keep going. “

Sakakibara and his younger sister Saya were aiming to make their Olympic debut in Japan, where he spent part of his childhood after his birth on the Gold Coast south of Brisbane in Queensland.

He started running at the age of four, moving to Tokyo in 2000 and collecting several titles before returning to Australia in 2008.

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